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The story of our 'Toby' is a fine example of good intentions opening up a whole new world of unexpected pleasures for our family.
Keeping in mind the old adage 'You can't save them all', and well armed with the knowledge that you really can't save them all, we once more embarked on a journey where we could at least save one! We found her on the Internet, on a website called Petfinder.com, which admirably sets its sights on saving most of them, thousands of them across the U.S. From Border Collies to Chihuahuas, their faces peer out in fear and confusion, devoid of family and lost, waiting in temporary shelters of concrete and steel.
Toby was one such critter who had 'run out of time', due to be euthanized at 9:30 the following morning. She was a stray, picked up by animal control in Akron, Ohio, and placed in a pound with too many other unfortunate dogs, a shelter which does not have a no-kill philosophy. Her picture was not a flattering one - in what we have come to realize is her fiercely independent nature, she was looking away from the camera, no doubt anticipating an escape route! She was a most unattractive figure, skinny form and dull coat, and an oversized black nose. She was described, quite accurately, it turns out, as an Affenpinscher/Schnauzer cross.
My immediate reaction to this little body losing her life, was one of disbelief and panic. There was no time to waste - following a quick consultation with the rest of the family, we decided on a course of action, phoned the woman in charge of rescues for Akron area, and asked her to kindly expedite matters on our behalf. She agreed, and at 8:30 the following morning, she made one of her many benevolent trips to the shelter, and seized the object of our affection. We subsequently made arrangements to have her flown, the following day, to an airport close by, in western Canada.
We picked her up at the Victoria, BC airport, soaking wet from an overturned water bowl in her travel kennel, but otherwise in satisfactory condition, or so we thought!
For a couple of weeks following her arrival, she made it her business to conquer our Springer Spaniel, 'Spencer' with her feminine and flirtatious wiles. She strenuously insisted that she was the girl for him, but to no avail. Spencer had, many years previously, been rendered incapable of this kind of affection, and he looked on her behavior as vaguely entertaining, but somehow beyond his capability. This did nothing to deter her interest, and she spent hours in an effort to entice our innocent into a liaison.
Of course, it was obvious that Toby was sexually intact, and in full heat, so we decided to wait until this cycle had run its course before having her spayed.
As time progressed, it became apparent that this decision to delay the inevitable was a wise choice. At first, upon noticing the swelling nipples, we considered that she must be having a false pregnancy, a relatively common occurrence in our canine friends, and closely associated to their position in the pack. This, however was not the case, which was daily becoming more obvious by the swelling belly, and a considerable amount of movement in the same vicinity. It was, after all determined that she was indeed pregnant, and it was probably not the first time for our flirtatious femme fatale!
This turn of events resulted in great consternation on our part, as we had absolutely no experience in canine obstetrics. Once more, we turned to the Internet for guidance, and on September 14, our little girl gave birth to the healthy pups. We had set up a rather large birthing box in the corner of the living room, complete with blankets, towels and pillows, and Toby had the good sense to know what it was all about. At 5:20 A.M., under the watchful eyes of yours truly (who had, incidentally, slept on the couch all night), she delivered the first pup, and by 6:00 she had pushed a total of six babies into the world. No complications, just a very attentive and capable mom and her beautiful pups.
She had been on our raw meat dog food diet for the duration of her pregnancy, which we knew was the best chance for the optimal health of the puppies. During the last few weeks of gestation, she was consuming one tenth of her body weight per day in raw meat mix, and following the delivery, she maintained this quantity for the full duration of her lactation. Well, I'm here to say that it paid off! Those puppies were, without exception, the most vibrant, happy, and sleek little balls of energy!
By the time we found acceptable homes for five of the six pups, we were quite happy to see them go, but we also felt blessed to have been witness to this miracle of life! Did I say five? Well, one more canine friend is a blessing after all. We now have a total of four rescue dogs in our household, and are the richer for it! Willy was the one pup we kept.
But, who was the father? Well you might ask! Spencer definitely did not surprise us. It turns out, upon some enquiring of the woman who rescued Toby from the Akron shelter, that she had put our little dog into the same back yard kennel as an unaltered, Black American Cocker Spaniel. A good choice all around, considering the alternatives!
And the new 'breed' is now officially known as the 'Affenschnocker'.
Sam and Owen - two of Toby's pups Willy